Sunday, 27 March 2011

New virtual CICS user group

How many times have you come away from a conference or a presentation and thought wow, that was really useful? Perhaps one small nugget of information from the speaker has opened a door for further development of work at your site. And most technical presentations are full of gems of information – both for the novice user and those more technically experienced.

But how often have you had to fight to justify attending meetings with other professionals? How often have you struggled to build a business case showing that a particular event or conference really will pay back more than it costs in your time off work, the cost of staff to cover your absence, travel costs, subsistence allowance, and hotel fees?

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to attend a highly professional technically-oriented seminar or presentation without having to leave your company’s offices – without, perhaps, even having to leave your desk?

And wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a single place where you could go and find out a little bit about the latest CICS product announcements, including a link to get more information if you wanted it? How cool would it be if there was a list of tools that ran on CICS with a brief summary of what each product did? And what about some way of finding out whenever someone published a new article about using CICS in IBM Systems Magazine or zJournal, or wherever – wouldn’t that be useful?

Well, the great news is that the all-new Virtual CICS user group at provides all that and more. On the Web site you’ll find a list of useful applications that enhance CICS, and a list of CICS service providers. You’ll also find the latest product announcements and articles.

In addition, every other month (that’s six times a year) there will be a webinar. Using Citrix GoToMeeting, you’ll be able to stay at your desk and interact with other members of the user group and listen to the latest presentation by an acknowledged CICS expert. In the months when there isn’t a webinar, there will be a newsletter sent to all members keeping them up-to-date with the latest news.

And if you’re wondering how much this kind of high-quality service is likely to cost you, the answer is nothing – not a penny! Membership of the user group is free – you just need to sign up at And the webinars are completely free to members. We’ll e-mail you a link about a fortnight before the webinar with all the information you need.

So, if you’re a CICS professional, this is the user group specifically tailored for you.

Why not join right now?

You may also be interested to know that the Virtual IMS user group has been running since November 2007. You can find out more about that at

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Johnny head-in-the-clouds

Almost everyone is predicting 2011 will be the year when cloud computing becomes a reality for many organizations. CA produced surveys towards the end of last year showing this to be part of the planning of most of the organizations they surveyed. Other surveys, like BMC’s and the Arcati Mainframe Yearbook found that cloud computing wasn’t quite on the radar of many of the people who actually do the day-to-day systems work.

This week has seen a report from IBM suggesting that 70 percent of small and medium businesses – perhaps not its usual massive mainframe users – are either planning to, or already do, deploy cloud-based IT infrastructures to improve their performance and reduce costs. For the report, IBM surveyed 2,112 business and information technology decision makers at midsize businesses around the world, and the publication is called Inside the Midmarket: A 2011 Perspective.

Also in the report was a finding that these same SMBs were moving from cost control to growth in terms of cloud computing. The report says that 62 percent of surveyed organizations are planning to increase their IT budgets in the next year or so. Now one spin on that would be that the world is out of recession and all’s good with the world. An alternative way of looking at it is to say that most sites have reduced or kept spending the same for the past two years and there’s a huge amount of pressure – like a boiling kettle – to update hardware and software.

The survey also found that 70 percent of respondents are actively pursuing business analytics to help give them some kind of insights into the huge amounts of data they’ve generated. The survey also found that 66 percent of respondents say they are embracing the benefits of cloud computing to optimize costs and redundancy while increasing uptime and scalability.

Obviously cloud computing is new to so many of the organizations surveyed and perhaps not surprisingly it was found that more than 70 percent are looking for local business partners with industry expertise for more of a consultative – rather than a purely transactional – relationship.

In other news (as they say) the new CEO at HP, Leo Apotheker is looking to make his company a leader in the development of infrastructure and platform Cloud services with an open Cloud, which many people assume will compete directly with Google's similar Cloud-based offering.

My final words of ‘wisdom’ on this matter is that we all think we know what we mean by cloud, but for many organizations it might be like shopping for a ‘car’ or ‘automobile’. You could end up with a Rolls Royce or second-hand Reliant Robin! As you work your way down into the nitty gritty details of what your organization needs, you can find cloud computing to be a fairly nebulous term!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

CICS tools

I've been putting together a list of CICS tools and I thought I'd share some of the information I'd found.
So far, I've found 110 products from 31 vendors - including ASG, ASPG, Attachmate, Axios Products, B.O.S. Software Service und Vertrieb GmbH, BMC Software, C\TREK Corp, CA, Circle Computer Group, Computer Application Services, Compuware, Cue, Metamon, Data21, Enterprise Research Inc, Foundation Software, GT Software, H&M Systems Software, H&W, Hostbridge Technology, IBM, Lee Technologies, MacKinney Systems, Macro 4, Matter of Fact Software, NETEC, International Inc, Rocket Software, Rosebud Management Systems, SDS, Serena Software, SOA Software, and UNICOM Systems.

The products allow users to do everything from development to sorting, from debugging to connectivity. The problem, I guess, from the CICS user's perspective is which product to choose. It's not like going to the supermarket and choosing between tins of beans from different vendors, it's more like making a choice between which menu item to choose at different restaurants. You assume that some are larger portions or come with better service. Some come with a side salad, at other restaurants all vegetables are separately priced.

The best I can do is create a list of products and briefly summarize what each product does - monitor, sort, management, tuning, etc. It's still very much down to the users to speak to each vendor and see what extras they get with their purchase and whether the product will integrate with the other third-party products already installed.

Below is a list of the CICS-related products that I've found so far. If you know of any others then please e-mail me at and let me have the information. Or tell me if a company's gone out of business or a product doesn't really exist anymore, etc.

I am already aware of many products that work with CICS that aren't necessarily CICS-specific, so I haven't included them.

Abend-AID for CICS (Compuware), ASG-TMON for CICS TS for z/OS (ASG), Autoinstall (MacKinney Systems), AUTOMON/BATCH for z/OS (UNICOM Systems), AUTOMON/CICS for z/OS (UNICOM Systems), BOS-skip (B.O.S. Software Service und Vertrieb GmbH), BOS-pack (B.O.S. Software Service und Vertrieb GmbH), BOS-help (B.O.S. Software Service und Vertrieb GmbH), C\FLOW (Circle Computer Group), C\TREK (C\TREK Corp), CAFC (NETEC International Inc), CA CICSORT (CA), CA DADS Plus for CICS (CA), CA InterTest for CICS (CA), CA SOLVE:Operations Automation for CICS (CA), CA SymDump for CICS (CA), CA Verify for CICS (CA), CDDF (NETEC International Inc), CICS Application transformation tools (IBM), CICS Batch Application Control (IBM), CICS Business Event Publisher for MQSeries (IBM), CICS Configuration Manager for z/OS (CICS CM) (IBM), CICS Deployment Assistant for z/OS (IBM), CICS Interdependency Analyzer (IBM), CICS OTTO (Online Transmission Time Optimizer) (IBM), CICS Performance Monitor (IBM), CICS Performance Analyzer for z/OS (CICS PA) (IBM), CICS Subsystem Management tools (IBM), CICS Transaction Gateway (IBM), CICS Transaction Server for z/OS (IBM), CICS Universal Client (IBM), CICS VSAM Copy (IBM), CICS VSAM Recovery (IBM), CICS VSAM Transparency (IBM), CICS/CEMT from Batch (MacKinney Systems), CICS/Comet for z/OS (UNICOM Systems), CICS/Fax (MacKinney Systems), CICS/FCTD for z/OS (UNICOM Systems), CICS/FileServ for z/OS (UNICOM Systems), CICS/Forward Recovery System (MacKinney Systems), CICS/Hotprint (MacKinney Systems), CICS/Juggler for z/OS (UNICOM Systems), CICS/Log View (MacKinney Systems), CICS/Mapr II (MacKinney Systems), CICS/Menu II (MacKinney Systems), CICS/Message (MacKinney Systems), CICS/Morning News (MacKinney Systems), CICS/On Line File Utility (MacKinney Systems), CICS/Qeditor (MacKinney Systems), CICS/Qsort (MacKinney Systems), CICS/Response Time Monitor (MacKinney Systems), CICS/SignOn (MacKinney Systems), CICS/Spooler (MacKinney Systems), CICS/Spy (MacKinney Systems), CICS/Swap (MacKinney Systems), CICS/Timeout (MacKinney Systems), CICS/Windows for z/OS (UNICOM Systems), CICS-DupS (Enterprise Research Inc), CICS-Lock (Enterprise Research Inc), CICS-SSO (Enterprise Research Inc), CICS-View (Enterprise Research Inc), CICS2PDF (Computer Application Services, Inc), Command/CICS (ASPG - Advanced Software Products Group), Dump Detective for CICS (MacKinney Systems), Easy Help for CICS (MacKinney Systems), Eden Server (Rosebud Management Systems), Energizer for CICS (BMC Software), eSendIT (MacKinney Systems), Fault Analyzer (IBM), Help/Windows for z/OS (UNICOM Systems), Inter-Program Command Processor (IPCP PLUS) (SDS), IpServer (Data21), Ivory Service Architect (GT Software), KEYFAST (H&M Systems Software), MacKinney Batch to CICS (MBC) (MacKinney Systems), Macro Level Interpreter (MacKinney Systems), MAINVIEW AutoOPERATOR for CICS (BMC), MAINVIEW for CICS TS (BMC), Megapacker (H&M Systems Software), METAMON for CICS (Cue-Metamon) METAMON Power Tools (Cue-Metamon) MFAST/ES (H&M Systems Software), PEngiONL (CICS) (Foundation Software), PIE/CICS Availability Plus for z/OS (UNICOM Systems), PIE/CICS Dynamic Menus for z/OS (UNICOM Systems), PIE/CICS MultiCICS for z/OS) (UNICOM Systems), PIE/CICS NetGate for z/OS (UNICOM Systems), PIE/CICS NonStop CICS for z/OS (UNICOM Systems), PlexSpy Application Status Monitor (Matter of Fact Software), REPRO for CICS (Circle Computer Group) RMode31 (MacKinney Systems), Rocket FYI/CICS (Rocket Software), ROPES (Axios Products), Show and Tell II (MacKinney Systems), SoftQuery (H&M Systems Software), SOLA (SOA Software), StarTool DA (Dump Analyzer) (Serena Software), Strobe for CICS (Compuware), Synchro (Macro 4), SYSB-II (H&W), Tivoli OMEGAMON XE for CICS on z/OS (IBM), Tools4CICS (Data21), TraceMaster CodeTrack (Macro 4), Track (MacKinney Systems), UCCF/Server for z/OS (UNICOM Systems), Verastream Bridge Integrator (Attachmate), Vital Signs for CICS (Lee Technologies), WebTek (H&W) WIRE (Web Interface Rules Engine) (Hostbridge Technology), Xpediter/CICS (Compuware).

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Cloud initiatives from IBM

2011 has been dubbed by some as the year of the cloud – the year when cloud computing comes off the PowerPoint slides and onto a computer near you. Others have muttered wisely about similarities with client-server computing, which for many years was the ‘technology of the future’ at every presentation and never quite arrived the way we were promised.

Anyway, this week saw announcements from IBM about cloud computing. It announced Tivoli Provisioning Manager 7.2, which creates virtual server images in minutes and automates the management of virtual environments and hybrid cloud systems. The software is also claimed to help to better protect data in the cloud. And the software provides ‘image management’ of a virtual environment, which means that as computing needs change the number of virtual machines can be scaled up and down.

Provisioning Manager works stand-alone or with other Tivoli management products. It works across Power-based servers and Intel x86 instruction set-based servers. It can manage LPARs (logical partitions) or WPARs (workload partitions) on AIX servers. It also manages virtual machine images provided by VMware ESX Server, Citrix Systems XenServer, and Red Hat’s open source KVM (but not Microsoft’s Hyper-V, yet) on x86 servers.

The beta availability of new hybrid cloud management capabilities were announced by IBM at the PULSE 2011 conference. Tivoli Provisioning Manager and other components can manage virtual machines across an internal enterprise cloud and an external public cloud. However, this doesn’t extend to other public clouds, yet.

Tivoli Storage Manager for Virtual Environments (also in beta) utilizes VMware’s vStorage APIs for Data Protection. By doing so, it offloads the back-up function from the virtual machine and ESX Server host to a VMware vStorage back-up server. Storage Manager is then able to request more frequent back-ups, ensuring greater data protection without placing excessive demand on virtualized system resources. It also allows smaller and faster back-ups that replicate only data blocks that have changed since the previous back-up by making use of VMware’s Changed Block Tracking.

The same week saw a discussion about cloud computing at the CeBIT expo in Hannover in Germany. There it was suggested that the adoption of cloud computing was being held back by issues such as security and reliability. One solution to the security issue was to use private clouds or shared private clouds. Another challenge that was highlighted was bandwidth (or the lack of it). They focused on the amount of data that would need to be moved around in a cloud environment might be too much for the existing infrastructure. The fourth issue the conference identified was interoperability – and the need for standards was highlighted. My personal opinion is that too often computing (and technology in general) has been held back by standards – the very fact that there are far too many of them! Have you ever tried to use someone else’s phone charger to charge your phone, only to find it has a completely different connector (let alone different amps and volts, etc). But you remember SOA and the plethora of standards, etc – OK rant over.

I’m sure this blog will return to cloud announcements, developments, and set-backs many times during this year!